Start a photography business as an expat


I'm going to move to Kota Kinabalu this year and I'd like to start a photography business. (As in wedding photography, studio, etc.) My girlfriend is a Malaysian citizen, I'm from Europe. Can you tell me what is the way to start a business like this as an expat? I'd appreciate any advice.


Hi MartonHun,

You can click on the link below for guideline. If you need more info, you can PM me directly and I will be happy to help. … foreigner/

Good luck!

Hi Marton,

My wife was a freelance photographer in KL for a few years doing baby photos, family shoots, commercial photography for a publishing group with eleven magazines and modeling photography. She obtained a lot of her earlier jobs from her website, special offers on Groupon, contacting kindergartens and modeling websites.

I think once you have set up your business you should have a lot of success as photographers tend to do well in Malaysia. Once you establish your reputation then you won't look back.


Hi Hansson,

Thank you for your reply it's quite motivating.
May I ask if your wife came from an other country to Malaysia to start her photography business?
I'd like to calculate an estimated budget but not too sure about freelancing there.


Yes she is Indonesian. She is actually a designer, but hobby is photography and she had full frame camera and a few lenses, so she started with children photography and moved on to families and models. One of the models recommended her to a publishing company and they used her for several of their magazines. If you advertise on Groupon with some discounts then you will easily get a lot of people contacting you to book photo shoots.

She was using Canon system and doing strobist and tethering. The tethering impresses the clients. And she is also expert with Photoshop and Lightroom.

I know that there are other successful foreign photographers in Malaysia, a lot specialize in photographing children and families. I'm sure you will do fine.

Wow! Sounds really nice. I'm quite curious about your wife's photos. Maybe you can PM me her portfolio?

I'm still not sure what I need to be a freelance photographer in Malaysia. Is it considered like a business?

Being a professional freelance photographer means that you should declare your earnings and pay tax.

I will send you a pm...

Yes you need to set up a company. Pay tax via that and earnings you pay yourself. Best you marry gf and get a LTSVP and get the right to work stamp with your business. Go to immi and ask about this. You cant do freelance as illegal work for an expat. Or get a work permit (a lot harder may even be impossible for a photographer).

Best your gf/wife(!) is also majority owner (but check as rules change) as lessens capital requirements. All this takes a cash upfront.

Most wedding photographers are chinese and the style is very different to west so you may need some adjustments. Also not speaking a chinese dialect may put off some customers. However having a matt salleh photographer may well attract others!

Be prepared for lease issues. All of my expat business friends have been cheated at least once. Eg lease doubles or you find you have been illegally evicted. The rule of law is weak here as "money talks". Save money and build up a cash reserve for these types of financial shocks!

Good luck!

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